Louisiana takes first steps toward legal reforms

There's no question about the fact that Louisiana has the second-highest auto insurance rates in the nation. The real question is why the rates are so high and what needs to change in the state's legal system to make things better for consumers.

If you listen to some people, the exorbitant rates are all the fault of "rich personal injury lawyers" who are encouraging excessive money-grabs by claimants that aren't really badly injured and doctors-for-hire that help them.

There are problems with the system that need fixing -- but it has nothing to do with unjustified insurance claims. Just the same, new legislation known as House Bill 372, was approved by the state's House of Representatives. State Representative Kirk Talbot, who proposed the bill, says that it will make the market more competitive for auto insurers who will then "pass their cost savings" to consumers.

Maybe. Maybe not. The vote was far from unanimous and split along party lines. Critics of the bill (including personal injury attorneys) say that it does little to help the average consumer.

The only benefit to a car accident victim in the bill is that it will increase the time a victim has to file a lawsuit from one year to two -- which may not be that big of a benefit in some cases. On one hand, it gives victims and insurance companies longer to work out a settlement without going to court. On the other hand, it gives insurance companies longer to delay paying victims what they are due and more chance to wear them down so that they'll accept less.

Judges aren't thrilled with the bill either -- and they certainly have no stake in the personal injury verdicts they see. The bill will lower the dollar amount needed for a claim to receive a jury trial to a mere $5,000, which critics say will back the courts up tremendously -- plus increase the expenses victims have to handle. It will also likely force some victims to settle for far less than they should just to get a claim over with without a trial.

The bill, which is named the Omnibus Premium Reduction Act of 2019, could essentially turn out to be more political ploy than practical relief.

If you're the victim of another driver's negligent act, find out more about your rights today.

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Vincent J. DeSalvo, Attorney at Law
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